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Chicago, IL

Cities of Peace seeks to amplify the struggles of young people in Chicago and Phnom Penh as they organize to transform harm and create community healing. Using their own site-specific histories as a jumping off point, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Peace Institute of Cambodia will form Community Peace Councils which will interrogate the roots of structural and relational violence and practice transformative justice. They will produce a documentary film, develop exhibitions, and participate in an international exchange which will culminate in a Community Peacebuilding Summit in Chicago in the summer of 2015.


Questions and reflections, transformations, and manifestations by and for Cities of Peace. 


How do we heal?

Maria De La Paz

Photo courtesy of Zakkiyyah Dumas

Photo courtesy of Zakkiyyah Dumas

During the beginning stages of Cities of Peace I really didn’t know what to expect, but as I have been spending more time the participants and facilitators I’ve gathered a few learning experiences as it pertains to the personal as well as collaborating. One of the most important things overall that I’ve learned is that it takes relationship building and openness to collectively engage on a project as expansive, and personal as this one; which is something I’ll be able to take away and consider for future collaborations and organizing. I’ve also gathered that it takes patience, time, and collective understanding to reach collective goals, which is something I observed in our last meeting. I saw some meaningful transformations take place within the group. A lot of the systemic and interpersonal topics such as genocide, state violence, and rape culture to name a few resonate on a personal level with most of the participants and has brought up a lot of concern as well as emotional responses. What does it mean for these participants to critique the state under which these systems work while also being funded by a government program? This particular interrogation seemed to really open up a lot of folks to be honest and clear about their intentions for the program as well as how it will affect their participation during and after.

Working on a program where folks have personal connections with the given material has been a new experience for me. It’s not that often that you work with a group of people who have the agency to be outspoken, honest, and critical of the work they’re involved in. Last weeks meeting really gave me a better understanding of what it means to do this type of work (activism & research) while also having the means to heal with others while doing so.  I use the term “heal” because the point at which folks broke open to express their frustration, anger, love, hurt, happiness and everything in between was transformative and at that particular moment I saw folks begin to open up and release in ways that I haven’t seen since I began working on this project. That particular space has been used for many purposes, events, and gatherings but in that moment it felt like a healing space and was intentional in allowing agency for expression and social change on a more intimate level. Each and every one of the participants are agents for radical change and I saw that illuminated in the last meeting. The amount of urgency that revealed itself was inspiring and encouraging, from shared views on police brutality to folks expressing the need for a more loving humanity.

Photo courtesy of Zakkiyyah Dumas

Photo courtesy of Zakkiyyah Dumas

As someone who has had the opportunity to document a few of the gatherings, it’s been fulfilling to get know some of the folks involved. As well as seeing how these relationships are being built through a camera lens. It’s beautiful to see how each participant individually expresses themselves through dialogue sessions and conversing about issues that are very real for them. I’m looking forward to documenting more of these sessions and witnessing the growth that continues to take place.

Love and light,